Ricardo Baca, The Cannabist

“…Since Ricardo Baca was named the marijuana editor of The Denver Post last month, he has been celebrated across the globe” (The New York Times, Dec. 8 2013 C. Haughney).

After researching into Mitch Dickman, the Award –Winning producer and director of the documentary ‘Rolling Papers’, a look into the states recent legalisation of the drug, Marijuana. Although the topic was interesting and the visuals and interviews were engaging, I ended up becoming bored of his work, as he hadn’t really done enough for me to do some heavy research and learn from it.

I realised that it may have been more insightful to look into the Denver Posts Cannabis editor, Ricardo Baca. ‘The Cannabist’ is a weed column, which runs as a part of ‘The Denver Post’ newspaper in the U.S town of Colorado, posting his various articles several times a week.

He has his blog space on the website which seems to get enough attention. His role in the film I feel was more prominent to me as a viewer than the director role of Dickman, as the documentary wound up following his story a lot more than I would have anticipated. I’m interested to try and analyse his approach to his writing and how he deals with and reacts to his many critics.

Although Baca is mostly recognized for being the first American weed columnist, he had been their music critic for 12 years and entertainment editor prior to that. He coined his own concepts for the newspaper, which he pursued on his own, and they are still up and running. He founded his own music publication called ‘Hey Reverb’ in 2007. This was a success for Baca, as it expanded to become a national website with up to fifty writers and photographers. From my observation, ‘Hey Reverb’ is still very active, with regular posts including music reviews, performance videos and photos, interviews, columns and much more.

He also wrote for other online companions such as ‘IndieWire’ (sticking with his weed focus), that I myself found really interesting, making me want to read his articles even more. On their website they described themselves as has “…the leading news, information and networking site for independent-minded filmmakers, the industry and moviegoers alike.” (IndieWire, 2016). This collaboration of music, film, theatre and marijuana journalism amongst various online platforms is interesting to me, as I believe that collaboration is one of the keys to success.

I feel as though I can understand Baca both as a reader and a writer, leaving me very intrigued by the topics he focuses on. His technique is definitely a slight attempt to become a ‘voice of the masses’, but perhaps isn’t if you were to be precise, as a lot of people are still against Marijuana use. Regardless, he has written for ‘The Cannabist’, saying that he isn’t a proper stoner, just an occasional indulger. Baca agrees that Cannabis can affect different people in different ways, which suggests that he is aware that it isn’t all good. This approach in my opinion is a good way of getting both sides to like you, and by that I mean trying to connect with both the Cannabis believers and non-believers, which brings us to his critics.

As expected, the recent legalization of Marijuana in the state of Colorado has received mixed opinions, with some individuals being extremely critical and ‘anti-cannabis’, and some being more than satisfied, as legalization has been much anticipated. There seems to be differing opinions and views amongst readers of the Denver Post and within the community as a whole in regard to the incorporation of a column particularly aimed to address Marijuana and its use.

During the documentary, Baca was actively engaging with critics of the Marijuana movement along with the columns that were being put out in the newspaper. One woman said that the Mom weed columnist was pretty inappropriate for a family newspaper or any for that nature of content. He wanted to hire a Marijuana critic to evaluate products on the soon to be legal market. Legalization in Colorado was voted in on January 1st 2014.

In terms of the documentary, The Guardian gave it three stars, saying, “The movie’s overall effect is easy and laid-back, but it does tend to dissipate into a half-remembered haze in due course.” (The Guardian, Feb 2016. J. Hoffman) and although I did enjoy it, I must say I have to agree. The documentary was at times not engaging, and quite repetitive at some points. Overall, I still didn’t know what the aim of the film was once I had finished watching. Despite this, I still found the film insightful and I did learn some things such as the positive effects Marijuana can have on people with illnesses such as cancer.

Baca often interacts with his viewers through different platforms, which I thought was pretty cool. His live interviews on SoundCloud reached out to audiences. Whilst speaking with ‘The Guardian’ during an interview he does a live Q&A for readers, showing good interaction with users.   He expresses views and concerns on the drug front with articles such as ‘A year in the life of a Marijuana editor’ (The Cannabist, 2016), from overdosing on edibles, to sharing his own experiences with weed, he still manages to reach out to non users, perhaps allowing them to expand their knowledge in regard to the Marijuana industry, giving the topic the opportunity to seem less taboo in society.

This communication to viewers means that Baca was able to reach out, in a plead that he posted on The Cannabist in order to promote their project asking supporters to contribute to the production costs. Baca had hoped that The Cannabist’s online crowd-funding page would allow them to raise $50,000 via the platform, KickStart in order to allow the production of Rolling Papers to be completed successfully, which it was.

Although Baca is predominantly a writer, he is also a photographer, leading me to my final point, the power of the photograph. “…Photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have the right to observe.” Baca’s use of Marijuana photography has the ability to open up a whole new world. For example, Forbes, a popular American business magazine, looks at subjects such as politics, law, technology and science. The game has changed, and the Marijuana topic has become somewhat mainstream, allowing such news platforms to pursue similar subsidiary blogs, with Forbes introducing a Marijuana industry blog written by Julie Weed.

In conclusion, Ricardo Baca’s work is being viewed more frequently now, with growth of the legal Marijuana industry people are now able to access the information and taboo topics have become more televised. For me, this research process has allowed me to understand more about journalism and the written side of the media. I have actually been encouraged to look away from the production side of things in order to channel my inner writer through the use of thorough research. I have been inspired to consider other career options rather than just focusing of the production of media.

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